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Biz Briefs

Dec 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Cable giant Comcast has reached an agreement with John Malone’s Liberty Media under which Comcast will sell 100 million shares of Liberty stock for $894 million. As part of the transaction, Liberty, which has been keen on pumping up its stock price in recent months through stock buybacks, agreed to repurchase 25 million shares. Comcast’s decision to monetize part of its stake in Liberty comes as Comcast looks to pay down debt incurred with its November 2002 acquisition of AT&T Broadband. Comcast received 217.7 million Liberty shares in September as part of its $7.9 billion sale of a 56.5 percent stake in shopping channel QVC to Liberty.
Separately, Comcast and Time Warner said last week that they have agreed to restructure their joint ownership of cable systems in Texas and Kansas, merging the Kansas City partnership with the Texas partnership, with ownership of the new joint venture evenly split between the two cable giants. Time Warner will continue to manage the partnership for two more years, and either company has the right after June 1, 2006, to trigger the split of the partnership.
Vivendi Profit Beats Expectations
Vivendi Universal, the Franco-American conglomerate that has spent the past 18 months struggling under a mountain of debt, said last week that its third-quarter profit was 131 million euros ($158.3 million) vs. a year-earlier loss of 1.23 billion euros-largely the result of growth at several of its units. The company, which reports revenues and profits separately, said in November that its revenue fell 59 percent to 5.9 billion euros ($7.1 billion), due mainly to asset sales designed to trim its debt load. Its U.S.-based entertainment unit, Vivendi Universal Entertainment, reported a 20 percent rise in operating income to $163 million, thanks to stronger sales of its classic TV library and robust results from the “Law & Order” franchise, which offset increased investments in programming and marketing. Vivendi is currently merging VUE with NBC in a $14 billion all-stock deal scheduled to be completed by the second quarter of 2004.
Bronfmans Resign from Vivendi Board
Vivendi Universal said last week that Edgar Bronfman Jr. and his father Edgar M. Bronfman submitted their notices of resignation from the Franco-American conglomerate’s board of directors. The moves by the father and son, whose family remains a major shareholder in the Paris-based company, follow the September announcement of the merger of Vivendi Universal Entertainment with General Electric’s NBC, and more recently, Edgar Bronfman Jr.’s successful bid for the music assets of Time Warner. Many of the assets that the Bronfmans contributed to VUE from their former Seagram Co., including the Universal film studio, will now be controlled by NBC. The junior Mr. Bronfman decided to resign his board post and step down as vice chairman of Vivendi Universal “due to his participation in the acquisition of Warner Music,” Vivendi Universal said in a statement.